Eli Manning walks back Russell Wilson diss: ‘Outrageous joke’

Eli Manning has had a number of viral moments from ESPN’s alternative “Monday Night Football” broadcast with brother Peyton. He doesn’t seem to like the perception of his most recent one.

It appeared Manning took a shot at new Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson on Monday after the team’s ugly 11-10 win over the 49ers the night before, in which Denver punter Corliss Waitman punted 10 times for 476 yards.

“They should have paid that punter $235 million instead of Russell,” Eli said while Pat McAfee was on the show, referring to Wilson’s $245 million contract extension.

Manning told Front Office Sports, however, that he was not ripping Wilson.

“No, I don’t think we’re trying to be critical. I think we always try to support the guys that are in the game,” Manning told the website. “I think sometimes, ‘Hey, it’s live TV.’ I never try to take a real shot at somebody. I think that was obviously a very outrageous joke — because a punter had 10 punts. Nothing against Russell. He’s going to do great.”

The Broncos entered the season with high expectations after acquiring Wilson from the Seahawks and hiring former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. And while Denver is 2-1, they’ve scored 43 points over their three games and Hackett has made questionable game-management decisions.

“It’s hard going into a new offense, a new system. It takes some time. It’s not going to be perfect after three weeks,” Manning told FOS. “I’ve been in that situation. It can take five or six weeks before you get comfortable with the coaches. It’s not just the quarterback. It’s all the players coming together, learning a new offense and getting together and getting on the same page.

Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson is sacked during a game against the 49ers on Sept. 25, 2022.
Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson is sacked during a game against the 49ers on Sept. 25, 2022.
Getty Images

“So I know he’s going to turn it around. He’s a tremendous player-athlete. So never want to try to take a shot. Or put anybody down. Obviously, it was just a ridiculous idea of paying a punter that much. I think we try to support the quarterbacks that are in the game. We know how hard it is to be in that situation. Obviously, sometimes we get emotionally involved. You root for guys. So you react. Or you’re rooting for a team. If they’re not doing something you think they should be doing, the thoughts and the opinions come out a little bit.”

During the Broncos’ Week 1 Monday night loss to the Seahawks, Peyton Manning was furiously signaling for a timeout on the “Manningcast” as the clock ticked down, with Hackett opting to try a 64-yard field goal instead of letting Wilson and the offense try to convert a fourth-and-5 in the final minute.